Saturday, 18 March 2017

facing the strange launch, sb sweeney, roger ashton-griffiths, david rowland's rendering of the west's awake, great barrington walks, the fox

Really enjoyed seeing everyone at the launch of Facing the Strange by SB Sweeney at Blackwell's on Thursday evening. The author's video reading was terrific! This was followed by a reading of the opening scene in the novel by Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Mace Tyrell in Game of Thrones) - brilliant - and a great rendering of the Irish ballad, The West's Awake, (which features in the book) by David Rowland.

A fantastic way to celebrate the novel!

As I said in my opening remarks:

"Facing the Strange. In some ways it’s uncompromising, tough. It deals with difficult subjects – alcoholism, drugs, family breakdown, murder. But there's also humour and insight into people. Above all it's about people – and no matter how these men and women in the book are – whether they are at their best or at their worst, they are written about with compassion and humanity. What underpins the novel are real human values – chief of which is love.

"It's a story of places – Preston, London, Ireland, North Yorkshire, Somerset. It's a novel of polyphony – of a wide range of beautifully rendered voices."

A day off yesterday. A lovely walk on the Great Barrington estate and a pint at the Fox.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

launch of facing the strange by sb sweeney, lost illusions of countryside, castaways 3 launch, sylvia vetta, euton daley

Very much looking forward to celebrating the publication of Facing the Strange by SB Sweeney at Blackwell's on Thursday!

Meantime, the controversial Castle Mill Flats weren't quite as stark and Soviet-era as this when seen in colour as I was walking to work yesterday.

I was intrigued by the structure in the recently-tidied tree and when playing about with the image, black and white seemed the best way of emphasising it.

I couldn't but be struck by how bare this stretch of the Thames tow-path, between Osney Bridge and Port Meadow, seems, now that some clearing has been done. I remember walking this way a few weeks before I first moved to our flat on Osney in 1987. The tow-path here was so well screened from the city that you could easily imagine you were deep in countryside. There's still something of that effect now but the areas of waste ground alongside the railway lines that were allowed to grow aesthetically wild for years have increasingly been built on.

I also remember how on night-time walks for a pint in Jericho, once you had cut under the railway tracks between the Thames and the Oxford Canal at the end of Abbey Road, you could have been strolling to a village local. The Harcourt Arms, under John's management, with it's Fullers beers and log fires.

Things change but there is still much to enjoy along these paths.

Had a wonderful evening on Thursday at the launch of Oxford Castaways 3, the final collection of Sylvia Vetta's interviews with remarkable local people that originally appeared in Oxfordshire Limited Edition magazine. The launch - which included a charity auction - raised money for Sobell House hospice, as do proceeds from sales of the book. A particular highlight of the event was a performance poem from Euton Daley, accompanied by a wonderful vocalist - see photo on Twitter. After the launch many of us went on to Brown's for a fantastically convivial supper.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

busy 7th week, excellent piece on facing the strange by sb sweeney, maura dooley at kellogg college, broadwell crocuses

Busy 7th Week of Oxford full term...

Saw this piece about Facing the Strange on the Continuing Education website - it gives an excellent sense of the book and some very good background info about its author, SB Sweeney.

Really enjoyed poet Maura Dooley's talk at the Kellogg College Centre for Creative Writing on Thursday and attending the guest night dinner afterwards.

The crocuses in the pic above are in front of St Peter and St Paul's Broadwell.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

snowdrops and aconites, not to mention marsh marigolds, first plotting, mixed feelings about a felled eucalyptus, bs johnson at the finborough, hockney and the nashes

Lovely to see the snowdrops and aconites appearing in the garden and on the verges when I'm walking to work in Oxford and cycling at the weekend. Not to mention the marsh marigolds in the ditches along Calcroft Lane, near Clanfield!

First working half-hour or so on the allotment this year earlier. Pruning blackcurrants. The cut wood smelling of the juice of the fruit. Also harvested some leeks and, after a late breakfast, went to the shed to fetch Desiree spuds from their sack that hangs from the rafters.

Had mixed feelings about the felling of the eucalyptus that overshadowed our plot. It has provided welcome shade from the sun over the years and, now, the allotment field feels awfully bare without it. Yet its roots or its leaves - people tell you different things - was killing the ground.

Just had a heads up from a friend that her productions of three plays by the astonishing, magnificent BS Johnson are on at the Finborough Theatre in March. A terrific prospect!

Wonderful memories of seeing the Hockney exhibition at the Tate a fortnight ago. Went straight from that into the Nash retrospective. The former uplifted, the latter perplexed and fascinated but never quite did it for me. I in any case prefer the work of Nash's brother John. I have a suspicion that this makes me a lightweight - but so be it!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

facing the strange by sb sweeney

Official publication

Facing the Strange by SB Sweeney is now officially published and is available from online retailers globally as a paperback and from Amazon as a Kindle ebook.

Now busy planning the launch party at Blackwell's on the 16th March, 7 pm.  Readers of this blog welcome - let me know you'll be there (

Facing the Strange

A rock musician on the brink, his drunken father and the grieving widow of a murder victim. Facing the Strange is a tale of three lives in free-fall at the end of the analogue age – the lives of three characters that hold the key to one another's redemption.

'One great long drunken rambling guitar solo of a novel!'
Tim Pears

'SB Sweeney writes with a clarity and wit that brings to life the less glossy side of the eighties: a world of squats, bedroom bands and cheap drugs, where a CV most likely meant a pint of cider and Vimto. The intriguing and intertwining tales make an addictive read.'
Deb Googe: My Bloody Valentine and The Thurston Moore Group

'It's La bohème meets Trainspotting, with the structure of a dream; a hole in the wall of the ordinary, an extraordinary landscape beyond.'
Roger Ashton-Griffiths: Actor and Writer

Find out more at the StreetBooks website:

Explore author SB Sweeney's website:

Sunday, 5 February 2017

longest january, bug, software nightmare!, samantha wynne-rhydderch at kellogg, sb sweeney's brilliant facing the strange

Am I the only person who thinks that last month was the longest January on record?

Perhaps it was the bug I succumbed to early in the New Year that laid me low or the dark days that seemed to dominate.

Despite the, rhetorical, question at the head of this post, my impression is that a lot of people have been laid low during the weeks since the Christmas holidays.

My experience of last week, with the change of month, didn't altogether lift my spirits. There was the major software failure on my now previous phone to contend with. A choice of reset and lose all your diary and notes data or transfer the info manually ensued.

Ironic that the day before I had been chatting with a colleague about how overmuch we rely on these devices of ours.

On the plus side, the manual transferring of data does force you to make choices. How much rubbish I keep on my phone! Smartphone? If only the operator was as smart!

Not that the week hasn't had its highlights  I very much enjoyed Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch's talk about her wonderfully thought-provoking and entertaining poetry at the Kellogg College Centre of Creative Writing. See:

And, of course, I'm looking forward to the release of SB Sweeney's brilliant novel, Facing the Strange, which is officially out on Thursday 9th February, but the publication of which is spread over the coming two months - Oxford launch at Blackwell's on Thursday 16th March, for example. See

Sunday, 22 January 2017

frosty fields, day full of hope and life, facing the strange by sb sweeney - paperback live on amazon uk, roger ashton-griffiths, launch of jane draycott's the occupant

Amazing walk across the frosty fields! I was up early because I have work to do today - till 4 pm, that is. Then I can enjoy the rest of the weekend properly.

Though the walk was certainly enjoying the weekend properly! Much colder even than yesterday, although somehow the day seems full of hope and life. The birds are much more active - friskily playful, in fact (the great tits in particular - chasing each other round the rose bush outside the back door!).

The paperback edition of Facing the Strange has just gone live on Amazon UK! 'It’s La bohème meets Trainspotting, with the structure of a dream; a hole in the wall of the ordinary, an extraordinary landscape beyond.' Roger Ashton-Griffiths: Actor and Writer.

Meant to say in yesterday's post that I really enjoyed attending the launch of Jane Draycott's new collection of poetry The Occupant at the Albion Beatnik in Oxford on Thursday. Lovely to hear her read and to see so many old friends.